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What Is Brand Sponsorship Marketing 

by | August 4, 2021

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In a recent post, I discussed when sponsorship is considered advertising versus when it isn’t. Today, I want to talk about sponsorship in marketing, specifically, a type of sponsorship known as brand or branded sponsorship. What is brand sponsorship?

Brand sponsorship marries sponsorship and marketing as a brand or company supports an organization, business, activity, or event. Examples include branded sports games, music festivals, art shows, and business expos.

I’m sure you’re eager to learn even more about brand sponsorship, and that’s what this article is all about. First, I’ll dive deeper into a concise definition of brand sponsorship. Then I’ll talk about how it’s used. There will even be some tips for obtaining brand sponsorship, so keep reading!

A Definition of Brand Sponsorship 

In sponsorship, several types exist that cater to the differing needs of individuals, organizations, or companies. 

For example, there’s promotional sponsorship, which is less financially based. For those businesses or organizations that do require funding from a sponsor, this is a different type of sponsorship. There’s also in-kind sponsorship, where instead of receiving cash, you’d get services or goods.

Another type is branded sponsorship. 

Brand sponsorship is when a brand acts as a sponsor. The brand would choose the cause to support, be it an event, a small business, or a charity. Since its definition is so broad, brand sponsorship can run the gamut, including the examples I mentioned in the intro such as concerts, sports games, business events, etc.

Now, to understand brand sponsorship, you need to know what a brand is. 

Brands aren’t always companies or multi-million-dollar corporations. There’s also personal branding, which is promotional on an individual level. For instance, if I asked you who Bill Nye or Elon Musk were, you could tell me, right? Those are examples of personal brands.

Another type of brand is a product brand. Nike, Apple, and Tesla are all product brands since they sell products. The same is also true of Target, McDonald’s, Starbucks, IKEA, and Coca-Cola. 

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Brand Sponsorship Goals – Why Sponsor? 

Brand sponsors sometimes pursue causes and companies they’re interested in supporting, but much more often, these mega-names receive an influx of sponsorship requests from individuals, organizations, or nonprofits. 

You might wonder, what would make a huge company such as a branded sponsor want to pursue sponsorship in the first place? This is something I discussed in my article on the main objectives of sponsorship

Per that article, I’ll go over some of the more pertinent objectives now, but I highly recommend you read the article in full at this stage of your sponsorship program. I think it will really come in handy! 

Without further ado, here are the goals of branded sponsorship. 

Easy Marketing

Large corporations can’t stop marketing just because their audience reached a certain point. Yet the larger your audience, the more marketing that’s required. You must segment your audience into niche-specific buckets, use personalized content and email marketing, maintain an active presence on social media…it’s a lot! 

Branded sponsorship checks off many marketing goals without the company having to do as much work. The brand can grow their reach, increase their bottom line, and differentiate themselves from their competitors – all through sponsorship

You can see now why sponsorship is so enticing and why some corporations are willing to spend millions of dollars to get their name attached to a big sports game or other popular events.  

Better Brand Awareness

At the stage your business or organization is in now, you’re always trying to build brand awareness. That could be why you pursued branded sponsorship in the first place. You figured that the star power of a big-name brand will be enough to get your name out there too.

Here’s something you might not know, but you’re not the only one trying to build brand awareness. Even though it might seem like every single person on earth has heard of Apple or Nike, that’s not true. In some far reaches of the world, there are people who have yet to become privy to these brands.

Big companies can always afford to increase brand awareness further, as this often leads to…

More Sales

In 2019, the Coca-Cola Company earned $37.26 billion dollars, says Market.us. In 2020, Tesla raked in $721 million according to a New York Times article published in January 2021. Although that’s an amount of money that many people can only ever dream of achieving, for big brands, there’s no such thing as too much money.

When brand awareness goes up, that usually brings with it an increase in leads. Through your activation opportunities and assets, more of the sponsor’s leads will convert into buying customers, which drives up their bottom line. 

Tips for Pursuing Brand Sponsorship

If you’re ready to approach a brand about a sponsorship opportunity, these tips will be to your benefit. 

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Start Small

Branded sponsorship, on its largest scale, can seem unattainable. You’ll have to work your way up to the Coca-Colas and Nikes of the world and start with smaller brand sponsorships. Yes, I know, “small” and “branded” seem like oxymorons, but there are smaller brands out there. You just have to know where to look for them. 

I’d suggest starting within your own community and branching out from there. The benefit of working with smaller brands is they’re hungry. They want to grow, so they’re eager to take on worthy causes that can help them expand. 

Of course, smaller sponsors usually don’t have pockets that are quite as deep as the huge corporations. That’s why I recommend having several small sponsors you can partner with. After all, $3,000 is still $3,000 whether all the money comes from one place or you get $1,000 from three companies. 

Have Rock Solid Audience Data

Brands are trendy, and that’s putting it mildly. Even smaller brands could see a lot of companies requesting sponsorship opportunities, so you need to ensure your sponsorship program is fantastic.

No, this doesn’t mean you sit for months working on your sponsorship proposal, but that you take the time to strengthen each area of your sponsorship program. The proposal is part of that, so are your assets, but it all starts with audience data.

I always say that companies want to sponsor your audience, not you. Some sponsorship seekers take this personally, but you shouldn’t! Instead, you should look on the bright side. You have something very valuable that a sponsor wants, and that means a deal could potentially be on the table.

If your great-great-grandmother passed you down a diamond ring, you’d get it appraised, right? That’s how you know its value. Well, audience research indicates your customers’ value. 

If the last time you’ve done an audience survey was longer than six months ago or never, then it’s time. I have a bunch of audience survey best practices here that will guide you in producing, sending, and analyzing your own survey.

It’s how you extrapolate the data that makes an audience survey valuable. You can learn such pertinent information as how many 20-to-30-year-olds buy your products and services or what percentage of your audience works in sales. 

Then, during the discovery session with the target sponsor, you’d talk more about their audience. A discovery session is that first sponsorship meeting where you ask pointed questions to get informative answers about the target sponsor and their aspirations and pain points.

When you have an audience overlap, the chances of a sponsor accepting your request to work together are higher, even if it’s a branded sponsor we’re talking about. 

Fairly Price Your Assets

Your target audience is but one asset of many. In this article, I go over the steps to create sponsorship properties, which are a collection of related assets. I also talk about inventory development in sponsorship, which is part of the process of collecting a list of assets.

For example, maybe you’re hosting an event and you want branded sponsorship. You’d canvas the event hall and look for asset opportunities such as booths or speaking arrangements. 

Determining the value of your assets is not for you to decide. That’s another tough pill for first-time sponsorship seekers to swallow. If you price your assets how you choose, then few if any sponsors will want to work with you.

Yes, branded sponsors usually have a lot of cash to offer, but that doesn’t mean they want to be taken for a ride. You need to use such factors as geographics, market research, and even competitor pricing to inspire the costs of your own assets. 

I also recommend customizing your sponsorship package, which is the menu all your assets go into. This is better than forcing a sponsor to pay for gold, silver, or bronze tiers, which is just as disagreeable to most sponsors as overpricing your assets. 

Come up with Killer Activation Opportunities 

The best activation opportunities are those that match the needs of your sponsor with the needs of your audience. This is something I’ve discussed on the blog before, but I think a recap is in order here.

After your discovery session, identifying three to five needs of your sponsor should be easy. Your thorough audience research also allows you to pick out some needs of your audience. If these needs are a perfect match, then you have a high-value activation opportunity.

Let’s say you’re working with a smaller branded sponsor. Their primary goal in sponsoring you is to grow their brand awareness. One of the assets they bought is a booth at your event. 

You want the sponsor to get lots of traffic at that booth. Your audience, as you’ve determined through your survey, attends your events to be entertained and have fun. So perhaps the sponsor hosts a giveaway or a contest at their booth with a fabulous prize. 

This activation opportunity checks both boxes in that the sponsor gets what they need–booth attendance–and your audience gets what they need–a nice time. The sponsor could require that contest participants sign up via email to be eligible to win the contest. Now the sponsor is building their list of viable leads, which they can pursue after the event. 

Try to Find a Connection Within the Sponsor Company 

My last tip is why I don’t recommend you start with a huge, branded company for your first foray into sponsorship. Sending cold emails and making cold calls will rarely get you in touch with anyone at the sponsor company except the front-desk secretary. 

When you and the target sponsor both know the same person or people (bonus points if it’s more than one person!), the sponsor is more receptive to the thought of having a conversation with you. As I always say, this doesn’t guarantee sponsorship, but it does get your foot in the door. 

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Branded sponsorship is the norm these days, occurring on levels as large as Coca-Cola sponsoring the Olympics to smaller brands partnering with companies like yours to grow their brand awareness and sales.

When you put time and research into your sponsorship program, you’re more likely to get results and possibly even sponsorship!